Financial advisors in the bank channel often talk about “leveraging” their branch’s tellers and lenders to build their client books. But it’s the rare bank investment program that effectively ends up partnering with other bank units. Kim Burdick, senior vice president and group executive for community banking at Fremont Bank in Fremont, Calif., thinks he knows the reason.
Burdick knows all this because Fremont has a “portfolio platform” that shows all the ways a given bank customer is involved with the bank, listing loans, deposits and investments all on the same screen. “This allows us to measure the relationship breadth of each client,” he says. It also allows senior bank management to look at how well bank personnel in the various units are partnering with each other, he adds.
“The first thing I did, on coming to Fremont,” recalls Burdick, “was to work to eliminate points of friction inside the bank.” The biggest point of friction, which he says is common in banking, was a general concern among bankers that having money shifted from deposits to investment portfolios would hurt them “because the branch would not be meeting its deposit goals.”
The answer, he says, was simple. “We worked to neutralize the negative attitude by telling the whole bank team that if money went from deposits into investments, it would not count against their deposit goals.” For example, if a depositor had a $200,000 CD maturing, and in discussions with that customer it became apparent that it might make sense to move that money into an investment, that would not count against the bank’s deposit growth goal. “There was no resistance to this idea. People recognized right away that these friction points undermine the whole idea of partnership,” he says.
A second point of friction was commercial lenders—a group that Burdick says tends to “closely hold” their client relationships for fear that someone (like a financial advisor) could do a poor job and wreck it for them. Overcoming that concern requires having people being brought together and getting to know, and to trust, each other.
Burdick says he is in the ideal position to oversee the creation of a true partnership across all the bank’s activities. “Since I run commercial, retail and investment, I’m the one who’s unbiased,” he explains. One of the things he does is to personally set up partnerships between individual commercial lenders and mortgage officers and financial advisors. “The fundamental organizing principle is geography, based on the branches people work out of, and personalities, but we also allow a certain flexibility in partnering involving specific clients,” he says.
He adds, “To make this kind of thing work, you have to have it come from the top. You need to set goals for partnering, and you need to clear away barriers to partnering.” But once that’s done, he says, “This is really a very transportable model. It’s something that could really be done at any bank.”
In the end, Burdick says everyone wins—the client, the bank, the loan officers and the advisors. “The model makes banking more fun for the bankers and advisors, and more enjoyable for the client. Many hands make light work.”